Venturing out to do the Londinium Walk was one of my first experiences with London outside of 27 Palace Court’s immediate surroundings. I think there was something special about starting at this great city’s roots and, as I have continued through the week to everything from the Clink to Bath, the Houses of Parliament to Tate Modern, I have been able to do so with the a concept of where it all began.
I love how the remaining pieces of Roman society are just interspersed throughout the City. Even as I was looking for them, I was always surprised to find them where they were. Monstrous modern skyscrapers have built up around these glimpses into the past, and yet for me they do not overshadow them. The human eye finds history just as beautiful and fascinating as the most artistic building that could be created today with all of our fine resources.
The necessity for walls is such a foreign idea to me, coming from a day and age where we come and go at will. But seeing the wall and other gates that were a requirement for any settlement to be secure, helped me visualize how the world must have been. Because of their enormous power, the Romans had many other factions who wanted a piece of it. The settlement of Londinium, on the very edge of Rome’s empire, would have been an easy target to be picked off and probably was attacked multiple times to this end. There was also the matter of the Vikings, Visigoths, and Vandals that would see and envy the growing wealth in Londinium and want it for their own. Not only did the Romans have to worry about those outside influences, but also rebellion within. Strict rules and regulations must have been imposed on the native peoples in order to maintain Roman supremacy, yet we know rebellions did occur. I can see the Romans believing themselves to be superior, coming to rescue the inhabitants of Britannica from their obscurity and barbarism, and in contrast, many Britons, such as Boudicca (who frankly had a good reason) resenting the conquest.
The uneven brickwork that characterized the wall seemed crude to my eye, which is accustomed to smooth streamlined modern glass buildings, but at the same time, it is difficult to comprehend how a society without cranes and state of the art machines was able to create what they did, and at the level of quality that they did it. Today, over a thousand years after its construction, the London Wall still stands. There are fragments that are blackened from bombings during the Second World War, but they also remain. The brilliance of human society is baffling to me. So I find myself at a loss—in awe at the sure genius they must have possessed to create what they have, and at the same time, horrified at the brutish deeds they committed. But I suppose they would say the same thing about me and my ability to vote and wear pants and my country’s ability to devastate an entire region with the drop of one bomb. Keeping it all in perspective is the task at hand and looking into the past is a great tool to accomplish this.